DETROIT — Just 24 hours after one of the most heartbreaking races of his career, sweet redemption came Sunday for Nolan Siegel.
Rookie Siegel earned his first career Indy NXT by Firestone victory on the streets of Detroit, taking the lead on lap two from his No. 3 starting spot in the No. 39 HMD Motorsports with DCR car and holding off his rivals on two restarts. Siegel crossed the finish line .6559 of a second ahead of championship leader and teammate Christian Rasmussen in the No. 6 HMD Motorsports with DCR machine.
Siegel, 18, who graduates from high school this Friday in Northern California, led by more than five seconds with two turns to go in the first race of the Indy NXT by Firestone Detroit Grand Prix on Saturday when a driveshaft broke while the checkered flag was waving.
He limped across the finish in eighth place in the 45-lap race won by Reece Gold.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” Siegel said. “Yesterday was obviously super disappointing. I think we deserved two (wins) this weekend. But to get it today after what happened yesterday, it’s not losing — it’s how you come back from a loss like that and how you come back from a bad day. We came back from a bad day and won.
“I think that shows a lot about our team, and I think we’re going to be up here a lot more.”
Pole sitter Louis Foster finished third in the No. 26 Copart/USF Pro Championship car Sunday, followed by Andretti Autosport teammate Hunter McElrea in the No. 27 Smart Motors car. Danial Frost rounded out the top five in the No. 68 HMD Motorsports with DCR machine.
Foster and Rasmussen drag-raced down the long back straightaway on E. Jefferson Avenue at the start of the 45-lap race on lap two after the initial start was waved off, with Rasmussen on the outside. Both drivers went wide in the turn three hairpin corner at the end of the straight, leaving an opening for Siegel to dart through for the lead.
Siegel then showed the same smooth speed and composure on display Saturday when it appeared he was cruising to victory, building a gap of one second before the field bunched for a full-course caution on lap 15 when Jagger Jones hit the barrier at the exit of turn two in the No. 98 Lead Sled car fielded by Cape Motorsports.
Rasmussen pulled on the outside of Siegel in the turn three hairpin on the ensuing restart on lap 20, but Siegel stayed tight to the apex of the corner and kept the lead. Siegel then gradually drove away from the field, building a lead of 1.6 seconds when Kyffin Simpson hit the barrier in turn nine in the No. 21 HMD Motorsports with CGR car, triggering the third and last full-course caution of the race.
The race was decided on a two-lap dash to the checkered after the restart on lap 44.
Siegel got a good jump on E. Jefferson Avenue and never was challenged into the turn three hairpin, pulling away over the last two trips around the nine-turn, 1.7-mile temporary street circuit with no mechanical gremlins before the finish.
Rasmussen kept the championship lead with his runner-up finish by just two points over the surging Siegel, 178-176. The next race is the Indy NXT by Firestone Grand Prix at Road America on Sunday, June 18, in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
1. (3) Nolan Siegel, 45, Running
2. (2) Christian Rasmussen, 45, Running
3. (1) Louis Foster, 45, Running
4. (5) Hunter McElrea, 45, Running
5. (8) Danial Frost, 45, Running
6. (11) James Roe, 45, Running
7. (6) Ernie Francis Jr., 45, Running
8. (7) Colin Kaminsky, 45, Running
9. (9) Jacob Abel, 45, Running
10. (10) Enaam Ahmed, 45, Running
11. (18) Matteo Nannini, 45, Running
12. (4) Reece Gold, 45, Running
13. (13) Toby Sowery, 45, Running
14. (12) Rasmus Lindh, 45, Running
15. (17) Christian Bogle, 44, Running
16. (14) Jamie Chadwick, 40, Running
17. (19) Kyffin Simpson, 33, Contact
18. (16) Josh Green, 30, Running
19. (15) Jagger Jones, 14, Contact